Dana Reeve Dies of Lung Cancer
Reeve, 44, Had Never Smoked; Husband Christopher Died in 2004
WebMD News Archive
March 7, 2006 -- Dana Reeve, wife of the late actor Christopher Reeve, has
died of lung cancer at age 44.
Reeve died on Monday night at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Medical
Center, according to reports. She announced in August 2005 that she had
and that she had never smoked. The announcement came days
after ABC News anchor Peter Jennings died of lung cancer.
Like her late husband, Reeve had been an activist for better paralysis
treatments. Earlier in her career, she had performed on Broadway and on TV.
Details about Reeve's lung cancer haven't been publicized.
About Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is the No. 1 cause of cancer deaths for men and women alike.
The American Cancer Society predicts about 174,470 new cases of lung cancer
in the U.S. in 2006. Lung cancer accounts for more than a quarter of all cancer
deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.
Smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer, but as in Reeve's case, not all
lung cancer patients are -- or have ever been -- smokers.
"We don't completely understand why they develop lung cancer," Jay
Brooks, MD, told WebMD when Reeve announced her diagnosis last summer. Brooks
is chief of hematology and oncology at the Ochsner Clinic in Baton Rouge, La.
He is also chief of staff at the Ochsner Medical Center in Baton Rouge.
After Reeve's diagnosis, the American Cancer Society issued a news release
with these facts:
- Cigarette smoking causes an estimated 80% of women's lung cancers and 90%
of men's lung cancers.
- Environmental risk factors may include secondhand smoke, radon (a
radioactive gas), asbestos, and certain chemicals and metals.
- Genes could also play a role.
- Fewer than 3% of lung cancers occur in people younger than 45.
The most common type of lung cancer is non-small cell lung cancer, according
to the National Cancer Institute.
'Desperate Need' for Early Detection Tests
Lung cancer often isn't diagnosed until its advanced stages, which is when
it is hardest to defeat. In its early stages, lung cancer often has no
symptoms. There is no routine screening test for early lung cancer, unlike
mammography for breast cancer or colonoscopy for colon cancer.
"We desperately need ways of detecting early lung cancers," Brooks
told WebMD in August.
Nearly 60% of people diagnosed with lung cancer die within one year of their
diagnosis and nearly 75% die within two years. "This has not improved in 10
years," according to the American Cancer Society.
Chest X-rays haven't been shown to be completely beneficial in screening for
early lung cancer, Brooks told WebMD. Brooks was awaiting results of a large
study using CAT scans to take pictures of the lungs.
"The problem with that is you're exposing yourself to radiation from CAT
scans every year and many times you will be finding things on the CAT scans
that are abnormal but are not necessarily cancer, and they require additional
follow-up," Brooks told WebMD after Jennings died of lung cancer.
"It remains to be seen whether or not this will be helpful for the
entire population before we make a statement about this. But it is being
studied, it has been studied, and we're waiting for the results of that study
to be completed ... hopefully within the next couple of years," Brooks